Neptune in classical and Renaissance visual art
- Luba Freedman
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Renaissance renderings of Neptune differ from the Greek and Roman models. As a rule, Renaissance artists followed classical conventions in depicting Olympian deities in the nude, and preserved the main attributes of the particular god. Yet in reviving the monumental image of Neptune, Renaissance artists did not have any definite classical model to imitate. While retaining the statuesque image of Neptune, they deliberately deprived him of the grandeur and majesty which normally characterizes an Olympian deity. This manifests itself in their giving Neptune an expressive face, making him perform the gesture of a mortal ruler, and likening him to Hercules.
- Jacob Burckhardt, “Skulptur der Renaissance” in hisGesamtausgabe, vol. 13, ed. Felix Stähelin and Heinrich Wölfflin (Basel, 1934), p. 173.
- Neptune's attributes are listed by H. Bulle, s.v. “Poseidon” inAusführliches Lexikon der Griechischen und Römischen Mythologie, ed. W.H. Roscher (Leipzig, 1897–1909), III, 2855–61, and by F. Durrbach, s.v. “Neptunus” inDictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines, ed. Ch. Daremberg and Edmond Saglio (Paris, 1877–1919), IV, 59–61.
- The first Cinquecento mythographer who distinguished between the Neptune types was Lilio Gregorio Giraldi,Opera omnia duobus tomis distincta (Leyden, 1696), 159F. See my article on “Cinquecento Mythographic Descriptions of Neptune,”International Journal of the Classical Tradition 2.1 (Summer 1995), pp. 44–53.
- I should mention Jacopo de' Barbari's woodcut “Great Plan of Venice” of 1500, which shows Neptune brandishing a trident as he rides a sea monster. For the information about this woodcut and other Quattrocento (and Cinquecento) images of Neptune, see Jane Davidson Reid,The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300–1990s (Oxford, 1993), II, pp. 915–16.
- Jane Martineau, ed.Andrea Mantegna. Catalogue of the exhibition held in the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 17 January–5 April 1992, and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 5 May–12 July 1992, No. 79, pp. 285–87.
- It is reproduced by Guillaume Du Choul,Discorso della Religione antica de Romani, trans. Gabriel Symeoni (Lyon, 1559), p. 88. This coin is the same as a coin reproduced by John P. C. Kent,Roman Coins (London, 1978), Cat. No. 174r. Cf. Erica Simon, “Neptunus” in:Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC) VII/1 (Zurich, 1994), p. 487, no. 43. Wendy Steadman Sheard,Antiquity in the Renaissance (Northampton, MA, 1979), Cat. No. 8, considers the Neptune image in theFelix Gem to be a source for Mantegna's figure. However, nothing in the figure itself suggests that Mangegna used this particular source. Also Mantegna's engraving is dated by the late 1470s, while the gem is reported to be known in Mantua only in 1483.
- Lilian Armstrong,Renaissance Miniature Painters & Classical Imagery; The Master of the Putti and his Venetian Workshop (London, 1981), pl. III, pp. 38–9. Wendy Steadman Sheard,Antiquity in the Renaissance (Northampton, MA, 1979), Cat. No. 8, considers the Neptune image in theFelix Gem to be a source for Mantegna's figure. However, nothing in the figure itself suggests that Mantegna used this particular source. Also Mantegna's engraving is dated by the late 1470s, while the gem is reported to be known in Mantua only in 1483.
- John Pope-Hennessy,Renaissance Bronzes from the Samuel H. Kress Collection (London, 1965), Cat. No. 339, Fig. 270.
- Colin M. Kraay,Greek Coins (New York, 1966), Cat. No. 219, Pl. VIII. Cf. Ingrid Krauskopf, “Poseidon” in:LIMC, VII/1 (Zurich, 1994), p. 454, no. 61.
- Pomponius Gauricus,De Sculptura (1504), ed. André Chastel and Robert Klein (Geneva, 1969), p. 263. On the sculptor, see Ulrich Middledorf, “Glosses on Thieme-Becker” in:Festschrift für Otto von Simson zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Lucius Grisebach and Konrad Renger (Berlin, 1977), p. 290.
- John Pope-Hennessy,The Frick Collection; An Illustrated Catalogue, III: Sculpture, Italian (New York, 1970), pp. 126–35. Severo's statue could have been influenced by Mantegna's Neptune. Cf. Sheard,Antiquity, Cat. No. 9.
- Cecil Gould, “Leonardo's ‘Neptune’ Drawing,”The Burlington Magazine 94 (1952): pp. 289–94.
- SeeThe Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, ed. Jean Paul Richter (New York, 1970), I, No. 607, p. 306.
- Phyllis Pray Bober and Ruth Rubinstein,Renaissance Artists & Antique Sculpture; A Handbook of Sources (London and Oxford, 1986), p. 131.
- Leon Battista Alberti,On Painting, ed. John R. Spencer (New Haven and London, 1966) p. 88.
- Kraay,Greek Coins, Cat. Nos. 461 and 573, 574. Cf. Krauskopf, “Poseidon”, does not mention the first coin, but mentions the second coin on p. 456, no. 86. I should note that in ancient literature Neptune was nerver described as wearing a veil or a mantle.
- See Gould, “Leonardo's ‘Neptune’ Drawing,” p. 293, for the two drawings that reproduce Leonardo's Neptune.
- Konrad Oberhuber, ed.,The Works of Marcantonio Raimondi and of His School, The Illustrated Bartsch 27 (New York, 1978), 352-I (264).
- Edi Baccheschi,L'Opera completa di Bronzino (Milan, 1973), Cat. No. 76.
- Michael Hirst,Sebastiano del Piombo (Oxford, 1981), Pl. 124.
- Joachim Poeschke,Die Skulptur der Renaissance in Italien; Michelangelo und seine Zeit (Munich, 1992), p. 167.
- Kathleen Weil-Garris, “Bandinelli and Michelangelo: A Problem of Artistic Identity” in:Art the Ape of Nature; Studies in Honor of H. W. Janson, eds. Moshe Barasch and Lucy Freeman Sandler (New York, 1981), pp. 223–51.
- See Bertha Harris Wiles,The Fountains of Florentine Sculptors and their Followers from Donatello to Bernini (Cambridge, 1933), pp. 48–50, pl. 89, for the original statue which is in the Museo Nazionale, Messina. See John Pope-Hennessy,Italian High Renaissance and Baroque Sculpture (London, 1963), III, p. 58, and Poeschke,Skulptur, p. 192.
- For example, Giulio Romano in his own house in Mantua made a fresco which simulated the marble statue of Neptune, for which a dolphin serves as a support. See Frederick Hartt,Giulio Romano (New Haven, 1958), Pl. 490.
- See Moshe Barasch,Giotto and the Language of Gestures (Cambridge, 1987), p. 17, note 5. This gesture in connection with Renaissance Neptunes is discussed by Irving Lavin, “Giambologna'sNeptune at the Crossroads” in hisPast-Present. Essays on Historicism in Art from Donatello to Picasso (Berkeley, 1993), pp. 75–81. The political associations connected with the Neptune image are explored by Michaela J. Marek,Ekphrasis und Herrscherallegorie; Antike Bildbeschreibungen im Werk Tizians und Leonardos (Worms, 1985), pp. 90–92 and 96–99.
- Wiles,Fountains, p. 119; Pope-Hennessy,Italian, III, pp. 73–75, pl. 74, and Poeschke,Skulptur, pp. 203–06.
- Vincenzo Cartari,Le imagini de i Dei de gli antichi, nelle quali si contengono gl'Idoli, Riti, ceremonie, & altre cose appartenenti alla religione de gli Antichi (Venice, 1571; repr. New York, 1976 [The Renaissance and the Gods 12]), p. 255.
- Charles Avery,Giambologna; The Complete Sculpture (London, 1993), p. 130, Fig. 131. I would like to note that Avery in this connection notes theHercules with the apples of the Hesperides.
- Barasch,Giotto, pp. 16–17, refers to this gesture as the gesture of “the speaking hand”.
- Lavin, “Giambologna'sNeptune,” pp. 79–81.
- Ibid. Lavin, “Giambologna'sNeptune,” pp. 64–66; Pope-Hennessy,Italian, III, p. 81. See also Avery,Giambologna, p. 206, Fig. 231.
- Lavin, “Giambologna'sNeptune,” p. 80, develops a comparison of Giambologna's statue with that of Hercules.
- Suzanne Boorsch and John Spike,Italian Masters of the Sixteenth Century, The Illustrated Bartsch 28 (New York, 1978), 28-B (1979), consider this print to be made after Caraglio.
- Poeschke,Skulptur, pp. 156–57. See Bruce Boucher,The Sculpture of Jacopo Sansovino (New Haven, 1991), pp. 136–41; II, Cat. No. 35.
- Ibid. Poeschke,Skulptur, I, pp. 137.
- Neptune in classical and Renaissance visual art
International Journal of the Classical Tradition
Volume 2, Issue 2 , pp 219-237
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- Luba Freedman (1)
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- 1. Department of the History of Art, Institute of Arts and Letters, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, 91905, Jerusalem, Israel